When people hear the word ‘microlight’, they quite often have that image of the flexwing type or weight-shift type where you have a delta-shaped wing like a paraglider under which trike is attached containing the aeronauts.
Known as ‘ultralights’ for our friends in the States, there is also another type of microlight. These are 3 axis fixed-wing microlights. These aircraft are much like conventional aircraft but have 2 seats and are much smaller in their overall weight.
You may be considering this category of aircraft if you are beginning your journey into the fantastic world of aviation and piloting. I’m here to try and convince you that this is the option for you and tell you why microlights should be the channel you choose to start you on your flying adventures.
Fewer qualification requirements
The licence to fly a fixed wing Microlight is called an NPPL or National Private Pilots Licence, plus a microlight rating. This is a different licence to a full PPL (Private Pilots Licence). You can get the licence in less hours and there are fewer examination requirements too. Here’s a top-level comparison of the two.
|Number of hours to complete||25 hours||45 hours|
|Number of exams to pass||5||9|
|Medical type requirement||Self Declaration||Full class 2 medical|
There is also a European version of the PPL which is called the LAPL or Light Aircraft Pilots Licence. However, since our departure from the EU, the future of this licence in the eyes of UK law is currently unclear. The NPPL also allows you to have a self-declaration medical certificate too. You will require your GP to sign it off but it is less involved than a full medical certificate and doesn’t cost anything.
Arguably cheaper to attain and cheaper to maintain
Generally, microlight aircraft are available at lower hire rates than larger aircraft. This means that your overall costs for learning to fly are going to be lower than that of a full PPL. Once you have your licence, hiring is going to be lower cost too, making your continuing costs cheaper. Microlighs guzzle fuel at a much slower rate keeping fuel costs down too. This may suit those of us wishing to keep the costs down but ultimately depends on how much flying you plan on doing once you have your licence.
You can fly (almost) anywhere
Anyone can fly into a big aerodrome with long grass or concrete runway! But microlights allow you to really take an adventure! With some aircraft taking less than 250 metres in which to land, you can get into some pretty small places. This opens up huge potential for various landing sites including the hundreds of wonderful farm strips scattered across the UK. It really opens up your options for where you can go. Furthermore, many microlights are slower than larger aircraft making them great for travelling at low and slow speeds giving you time to take everything in and move at a slower pace.
You still feel like you are flying an aeroplane
Fixed-wing Microlights are still aircraft in the traditional sense. Almost all of them have enclosed cabins, a stick and very typical basic aircraft instruments which are the same across all aircraft. They’re strong, sturdy with incredibly reliable engines and some can even give you the extra thrill of aerobatics too. They can take you anywhere across the UK (and hopefully, we can continue to hop across the channel too, EU legalities pending) and into some very unique and interesting places. The community is huge, varied and inclusive and the choice of aircraft is surprisingly wide. There are single seaters, bi-planes, high-wing and low-wing microlights. To see the variety available, take a look at our other post on different Microlights available.
The future is bright
The future is also looking very bright for the NPPL and Microlight rating. We have changes coming to us as soon as May 2021 that change the weight classifications from 450kg to 600kg which narrows the gap between Microlight and other aircraft even further. Plus, with our exit from the EU underway, there are exciting changes being made to the world of general aviation in the UK that will hopefully make licensing and enjoying our hobby much easier and more enjoyable. So now really is an excellent time to get your Microlight career cracking!
How about booking a trial flight to take that last step you need to take to convince yourself!